When it comes to getting started in macro photography figuring out what kind of gear to buy is usually limited by the photographer’s gear budget. Finances permitting, buying a high quality camera maker’s dedicated macro lens is usually the ideal choice. For those on a tighter budget, there are other viable options. While these tools aren’t as fancy as a macro lens, they can provide entry into the world of macro photography with little regret.
Generally, the best option is a lens designed specifically for macro photography. For the MFT enthusiast there aren’t a lot of native choices as the moment. This article is going to focus on a specific MFT macro lens. Future articles will examine other macro options. Over the next few months readers should get a variety of options that hopefully will help anyone interested in macro photography with their MFT cameras no matter what their budget.
For Olympus/Panasonic camera users there is the Olympus 60 2.8 macro lens (about $500 plus another $75 for the Olympus lens hood, but much cheaper knockoffs are available on ebay). The Olympus 60 2.8 macro lens is an excellent example of a dedicated macro lens for a micro four-thirds enthusiast. This small, lightweight lens delivers 1:1 enlargement, decent autofocus and most importantly, razor sharp performance.
It’s time to take a closer look at this lens, from the viewpoint of ease of use and functionality. This column will also try to answer the question, “Is this lens a good value for the price?”
The 60 2.8 is a small and lightweight lens. Its autofocus is reasonably fast at regular working distances and it’s a nice lens for portrait work. Its AF is pretty serviceable for macro work, but I usually prefer to set the lens to its closest focus point and move the camera back and forth to bring the subject into focus. It does have a focus limit control that can be used to control the lens’s range of focus or even immediately shift the lens to closest focus.
Like other Olympus prime lenses for the company’s MFT lenses, the 60 2.8 lens can take an expensive lens shade. What’s noteworthy about this accessory is that it’s designed to slide up and down the lens once attached. This is a welcome option since the lens can focus closer than the length of the lens shade. Rather than removing the shade for macro, the photographer can just slide it down the lens barrel until the lens is once again used at a safe distance. At that point the photographer just slides the shade back in place. The Olympus version of this lens shade (which didn’t come until the lens had been on the market for quite a while) costs about $50, pricey, but not bad compared to some of the other lens shades the company offers. Still, you can find third party options on ebay for less than $20. While it’s common for cheaper knockoffs to be a case of “you get what you pay for,” lens shades are one of those things where spending the extra money doesn’t seem to be necessary.
Considering its small size, fast aperture, responsive autofocus, image quality and reasonable price, this lens is a solid choice for macro photography. Coupled with the Olympus Macro Arm Light (MAL-2), it provides a lightweight, easy to use and effective macro system. When used with the Olympus O-MD E-M5 and its excellent high ISO performance, this system lets the photographer aim for 1:1 reproduction with comparative ease (even handheld) and frequent success.